Samoa’s national Netball team are an up and coming group of young women with a bright future, but who knows who they are?
Classified as a ‘minor sport’, sports media coverage typically focus’ on the eminent Manu Samoa Rugby team.
But the Chief Executive Officer of Netball Samoa, Rosemarie Esera, believes Netball has a lot to offer the country.
Netball Samoa has endeavoured to provide the resources for schools to “set pathways for young emerging players” and emphasize the importance of the interlinked relationship of education and the sport, “the two go hand-in-hand” Esera explains.
She explains the misconception parents often adopt, that their child cannot be both a successful athlete and academically prospering student. She turns the tables stating that in order for sporting success, school is a necessity, “If she wants to be an athlete, she needs to go to school from Year 1”.
The organisation has set up a village outreach programme, “the talent is in the rural areas. It’s raw and they’re tough, but what’s lacking is access to quality and regular games, access to expertise and academics. Only time a young girl would come into the town is if they had a scholarship to do Year 13, which means they would have had to pass school. From the rural areas there’s not many girls that do that.” She reiterates the importance of education in sporting success.
The fact that “Sport can bring someone from the village, and someone from the town together is fantastic. It means they can learn from each other. It might be the only opportunity aside from Church for their paths to cross.” Esera explained the special way in which Netball empowers all girls, putting them on an equal level.
Netball also provides a social opportunity to teach women life skills, “we encourage hygiene and health. Young girls aren’t recognising what health is,” Esera blames a rise in the number of Fashion Parades and media’s promotion of super thin models, for young people’s deluded image of what healthy or even beautiful looks like.
“Nobody ever talks about anorexia, Netball can step in to raise awareness of these problems.” The CEO plans to tackle this issue head on by establishing a ‘Family Ties League’, where each team would consist only of family members. “We plan to educate the entire family to achieve a healthier Samoa.”
“Having Grandma, Mum, Niece etc. playing together helps to build better family relationships, and encourage parents to see the importance of the sport,” hopefully resulting in an increase in support from parents to their children, in terms of their aspiring athletic dreams. “Netball Samoa can’t do this alone, we need volunteers” she adds.
Their last open league was a roaring success with twenty teams participating. The ‘Business House’ competitions provided “a safe haven for some women, who were using it an outlet to escape from their lives, for just half an hour.” The sport promotes much more than just physical fitness.
Funding is a problem particularly localised to Samoa, especially after the National Venue’s destruction in the 2009 Cyclone, “it’s made it really hard to bring in the crowds” Esera explains. The hire of the NUS court at $700 Tala every Saturday has become a real drain on resources, jeopardising the work the Association can do.
“I think there needs to be ownership. If you look at sports overseas, players have to pay because it’s becoming such a specialised area, the resources of having qualified coaches is a real investment.
People pay to go into outreach programmes, here it’s the other way around”. She believes the lack of financial commitment from players and their families, is due to a lack of media coverage.
“Nobody knows netball, so sponsors get more mileage through the Manu Samoa jerseys” as a consequence, parents don’t see sports as a career for their daughters. However, Netball Samoa are founded on encouraging professional opportunities.
Romania Ng Lam Pose, commented “netball has helped me be the person I am today and achieve many things in my life.” While Vice Captain Soli Ropati expressed her aim of “completing nursing at university and representing Samoa at the World Cup in 2019”.
Netball Samoa’s efforts have not gone unrewarded, as the Under 21’s girls team is heading to Botswana for the Gaborone Cup at the end of this month. However, in order to grow and develop as a team, the sport must receive more recognition and support from the Samoan community.